Easter (Bunny) Bread

April 17, 2014 · 2 comments

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“I didn’t know the Easter Bunny baked!”  That was the first thing four year-old Julia said last Easter morning.  The night before, this particular Easter Bunny had baked one of her favorite treats –a tender, gently sweet breakfast bread– into the shape of her name and set it out with her Easter basket.

I think this sort of bread is associated with Easter all over Europe.  In the South, it’s common to see colored eggs baked right into the braided loaves, which is pretty but something I don’t do for a couple of reasons:  the eggs are likely to get overcooked in the oven, and their presence means that the bread will need to be refrigerated after a few hours, which quickly makes it soggy.  Even without the eggs, though, rings (or names) of the twisted, sugar-flecked bread are a nice treat on Easter morning –or any morning for that matter.

My take on this bread is a little Scandinavian.  I lightly flavor the dough with ground cardamom (a much loved spice for sweets in the North), and decorate it with Swedish pearl sugar.  Both are completely optional.  You could skip the cardamom and substitute sanding sugar or use none at all and still get beautiful and tasty results.

Recipe

Ingredients

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1 package instant yeast (about 2-1/4 teaspoons)

1 1/4 cups (295ml) milk

1 pinch salt

1/3 cup (80ml) butter

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 cup (120ml) sugar

About 3 1/2 cups (830ml) flour

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 egg, beaten with 1 teaspoon of water

Swedish pearl sugar or sanding sugar (optional)

Instructions

1.  In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, warm the milk and butter just until the butter melts.

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2.  In a large mixing bowl (ideally of a standing mixer fitted with the dough hook), combine the yeast, sugar, salt and eggs.  In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and the cardamom, if using.

3.  Pour in the warm milk and butter.  If the milk is steaming, let it cool a bit before adding it to the yeast mixture or it can kill the yeast.  (Our friendly fungus can’t tolerate temperatures above about 120F (49C)).  The liquid should be 95F-115F (35-46C) to activate the yeast.  If you’re unsure about the temperature, place of few drops on your wrist (which should feel comfortable) or use an instant-read thermometer.

4.  Add about 2/3 of the flour and mix well with the dough hook (or a large wooden spoon).  Then, add flour until the dough is no longer sticky.  This may not require all of the remaining flour, or it may require just a bit more.  Knead the dough (with the dough hook or with your hands on a floured board) until it’s smooth.

5.  Place the dough into a greased bowl, cover with a damp towel and put it in a warm place to rise for about an hour.  It should double in size.

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6.  Preheat the over to 350F (175C).  Punch down the dough and cut it into 12 roughly equal pieces.  Roll each out into a snake about 1 inch thick and 14 inches long.  (Don’t sweat the details on this.)  Pinch two snakes together at one end, twist one around the other, and then pinch them together at the other end.  Arrange into a ring or any other shape on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a baking mat.

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7.  Beat together the egg and water and brush all over the bread.  Sprinkle with the sugar.

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8.  Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden brown.

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DDbug2

 

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